Ben Steed was kind enough to answer a series of questions, regarding his forthcoming EP via the Altered Echo Project. Here we discuss many things including process, technique, influence, a little personal history, the infamous Pivot questionnaire; giving us a glimpse into the mind that made this music that is called…Yggdrasil.
Yggdrasil is the fourth official release in the AEP catalog and can be downloaded for free come October 1st, 2013.
What is Yggdrasil?
Yggdrasil is a sacred and divine tree in Norse mythology. It is the centre of all existence according to this mythological paradigm, within which the heavens and the gods reside.
What, if anything, does this record represent and or mean to you?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me personally I like to think of it as something of a journey. Yggdrasil is such a huge thing, I wanted to try make something that at least resonates to an extent with that.
Explain to us your process in arriving at this concept for the record?
I have always been interested in mythological divine systems, and there is something about Yggdrasil as an entity that drew me to it. I have tried to capture the concepts drawn around it in these 16 minutes of audio. The very notion of this huge tree of energy being the crux of all existence fascinates me, so I felt compelled to create my own audio interpretation.
Why not, man?
Did Yggdrasil begin as an album or did it grow into one from something else?
When I wrote the first track, it was just going to be called ‘Yggdrasil’ and left at that, but yeah it didn’t take me all that long at all to decide I wanted to make an EP based on this concept with this type of music. From there things just came naturally.
You have quite a vast body of work. Is your process always the same going into making a record? When you make one is it always your intention to make one or is the process more spontaneous?
A lot of it is experimentation and just messing around with ideas. Sometimes I set out to make a specific type of album but usually it becomes something entirely different, which I find is nice. But yeah I do often find myself consciously committing to writing an actual album.
You had told me the use of resampling is heavy in this work. Explain to us that process. Is there a method to the madness, like specific techniques you return to, or is it more based in experimentation?
Oh a lot of it is generally experimentation. I always love finding new approaches to these kind of things. I do have myself a lot of custom chains/settings etc that I find myself coming back to as a starting point, but a lot is just a flux of messing around.
What’s your musical background?
From as far back as I remember I’ve always had a love for music, I suppose because I’ve just been so vividly exposed to it whilst growing up. I started learning piano at 6 and guitar at 12. I rarely played in bands so I’ve always taken to writing things on my own, starting off with acoustic guitar and vocal-type things. As soon as I discovered what a computer could really do did I start to think “Hmm, this whole ‘electronic music’ shenanigan doesn’t seem all that bad at all”.
How did you find electronic music?
When I was about 12/13, I’d spend a lot of time watching an ‘alternative music’ show on MTV2 called 120 Minutes, that showed right into the deep recesses of the night. There I discovered Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, and an array of other lovely bits and bobs, who blew Small Ben’s delicate little mind. Been a bit of a party ever since.
Explain to us your move from listening to electronic music to composing it, what were the first steps you took?
I actually wrote an album when I was about 14. I was able to get a trial of Acid Pro with a few samples and loops and stuff, so I began to arrange some pieces, and got quite a lot. It was 14 tracks overall or something. But after that, when I was studying music performance to refine my acoustic abilities, I also had access to Logic Pro. Haven’t looked back since.
When you sit down to make a piece of music are you always sitting down to make a piece of music or does it happen some other way?
I find myself composing everywhere, and getting little phrases and melodies and rhythms come to me as I wander around about my business. I can usually keep hold of those ideas by the time I get back to formulate them, and because everything inspires me I’m usually never short of ideas.
What’s your favorite part of trackmaking?
Honestly nothing, I love it all. It’s all a part of a rich tapestry of creativity that will result in something.
What specific part of your process would you like to see improve?
I wouldn’t mind a bit more of a ‘hands-on’ experience sometime. I would quite like to get some more hardware, I imagine it’ll change the game up a bit as far as the creative process goes.
Manuals or trial and error?
Bit of both. I like jumping into things and seeing what happens, but I like to hope that I still have the patience to sit down and understand something I can’t get my head around after screwing around with it.
Do you prefer sequencing notes or playing them?
Again, I like both, but I think I’ll always have a soft spot for playing. There’s just something about feeling the music you’re creating as it leaves your physical manifestation and enters that space where only sound can reside.
Do you use any hardware?
A few keyboards but otherwise no, unfortunately. I would very much like to start getting into analog synths specifically.
If you could have any piece of gear what would it be?
Haken Continuum without a doubt.
Do you use field recordings in your work?
Do you collect them yourself or do you use recordings others have found?
Most of the time these days they’re recordings I’ve collected myself. I love the additional intimate vibe it brings between you and the track when you do that.
What music are you listening to now that you take influence from the most?
I’m always listening to new and old things and artists from all over the musical spectrum, but right now I’m really into Fescal, Linear Bells, Wixel, Eeem, Blanck Mass…
Have you ever considered giving it up? If so, why?
Nah not really. There’s too much to do to give it up.
If you knew nobody would ever hear your music would you still make it?
Absolutely. I write for my own enjoyment more than anything, but everything else is a lovely topping.
From a production standpoint what’s one thing you know now that you wish you would have known going in?
Well for one, I wish I’d not rushed into releasing my first album so quickly, and probably the second one too. So, really, I wish I knew patience.
Any advice for the new artist?
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
I’m not sure I have one.
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
What turns you off?
What is your favorite curse word?
‘Fuck’. It’s clean, strong and striking, and makes for a good insult as opposed to adding emphasis for a weaker word to follow.
What sound or noise do you love?
I have several. Heavy rain on trees and large, smooth roads. Violent waves. Ice cracking underfoot. A large mass of leaves being kicked. And silence, because I like to pretend I’m John Cage.
What sound or noise do you hate?
Scraping on a blackboard.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I write a lot of fiction. I hope sometime I will have the chance to push that creative outlet into something bigger.
What profession would you not like to do?
Anything that demands monotonous routines and mind-mangling boredom.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
“Try the acid.”